Portland protesters sing 'anti-eviction' carols

Portland protesters sing 'anti-eviction' carols

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by KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on December 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 6 at 8:07 PM

PORTLAND - A group opposing banks foreclosing on homes protested Tuesday at the home of a Portland couple they said was facing possible eviction.

It's part of a larger day of action spurred on by concerns about social inequality nationwide.

Singing what they called "anti-eviction carols," protesters moved into the Multnomah County Building around 4 p.m.

They delivered cards to the sheriff and assessor's office urging officials to "Keep us home for the holidays."

We Are Oregon is a non-profit group, along with Occupy Our Homes, a group that said it was joining Occupy groups across the country to highlight the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

"We are really just trying to change the conversation in the country on what the judgment is when families are foreclosed on," said Angus McGuire with We Are Oregon.

The many families in crisis include Deb and Ron Austin, who said they were both diagnosed with cancer and took out a second mortgage in order to pay their medical bills.  The couple's financial trouble started in 2007, when Ron lost one of his jobs. Both have battled surgeries, cancer and bankruptcy.

Even though the couple was able to modify their loan - they said they still fell behind on their payments and their lender started the foreclosure process.

Deb said even though she was given an eviction notice from the bank, she won't leave her northeast Portland home. The eviction date is set for March.

"I don't know what else to do, you know. They've taken everything else. We filed bankruptcy, our RV is gone, you know, we can't even afford to have our trash picked up," Deb said.

The Austins bought their home in 1986 for $39,000. Over the years they re-financed several times and also took out a second mortgage. They said the home is now valued at $160,000, but their mortgage is for $211,000 and they fell behind on payments.

"Before the loan modification it [payment] was $1,789, I think, and then the loan modification brought it down to $13-something, which was affordable to us. But we just happened to have a hard month. And it snowballed out of control and I couldn't stop it," Deb said.

Now the Austins admit they did make some bad decisions but they also put part of the blame on the bank that urged them to borrow against their home.

Sociologist Randy Blazek is not advising the Occupy Movement. But he says people should be slow to criticize the Austins because she and millions of others believed the notion that home ownership was the way to wealth and borrowing against a home was okay.

"And now all of a sudden because of collusion and criminal behavior on Wall Street, that nest egg disappeared for a lot of people."They worked their entire lives and end up with nothing."

Blazek said he thinks that message will resonate across the country, too.

(KGW reporters Collette Wieland and Pat Dooris contributed to this report)

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